Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to speak to Bill C-23, which the Conservatives would use to force Canada, if they have their way, to enter into a free trade agreement with Colombia.
A number of speakers before me have clearly shown that, unlike most international trade agreements, this agreement does not acknowledge the importance of enforcing respect for human rights.
The Conservatives have managed to convince themselves that by signing a free trade agreement with Colombia, we would miraculously be creating a new set of conditions that would have Colombia respect human rights from this point forward.
That is just not the case. Even the Americans, who the Conservatives emulate in international matters, are saying that they will never, ever sign a free trade agreement with the current Colombian government for the simple reason that they recognize, as we in the NDP do, that, unfortunately for its inhabitants, that country does not respect basic rights and the right to free association and union rights, in particular. Hundreds of union members and leaders have been murdered without any apparent consequence in that society, and this is but one of many examples.
Out of the ruins of the second world war, pioneers like Jean Monnet, Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman achieved one of the greatest successes in the history of the world when they took countries that had been at war for centuries, if not millennia, and built what is now the European Union. But you have to walk before you can run. They at least had a common foundation in their desire to respect human rights. It started with an agreement covering coal and steel, which became a common market, then an economic community, before turning into the true union we know today. But this is a union that continues to respect human rights, because that was one of the values on which it was built.
There is no similarity here. We are talking about a country that the Conservatives would like to see improve its human rights record, but that is not happening.
Moreover, I have news for the Conservativechief government whip, who decided a few weeks ago to give us a lesson in morality when he said that he was apparently offended because the opposition was daring to play its role as the opposition. He gave us a finger-wagging lesson in morality, saying that that is not how to make Parliament work. If I understood the Conservative Party's chief whip correctly, making Parliament work means giving the Conservatives everything they want. That is not how things work in a democracy, but it speaks volumes about this government's attitude and why the Conservatives do not see any problem in proposing a free trade agreement with Colombia, something the Americans would never do.
In fact, by debating the amendments and subamendments to Bill C-23, we are complying fully with the rules of our parliamentary institutions. We will not be lectured on morality by a government that is trying to force passage of a bill that would mean signing a free trade agreement with a country that does not respect human rights.
We will not stand for that. They can carry on admonishing us and telling us how dissatisfied they are with the results, but they are in the minority. There is an important lesson in this for anyone who might be thinking of making a change for the worse if they ever win a majority. The consequences of that are clear in the wording of Bill C-23. This bill belies the Conservatives' ideals: even if a country does not respect human rights, as long as business is good, nothing else matters.
All of the Conservatives' empty words about respecting human rights can now be examined and understood in light of what we have before us today.
The emperor has no clothes. This government talks about respecting human rights, but what it really wants is a free trade agreement with a country that systematically denies people their basic human rights.
The New Democratic Party believes that we must begin by strengthening the ability to enforce respect for human rights within Colombia. If asked, we should not hesitate to use our democratic institutions' experience to help Colombia.
But if we sign this agreement now, we will be sending the Government of Colombia the message that it does not need to make an effort to improve its human rights record because we are prepared to sign an agreement with the current Colombian government.
We must avoid sending that message at all costs. If Canada is serious and wants to become a champion of democratic values once again, we must stand up and say that an agreement like this one with a country that does not respect human rights will never make it through this Parliament.
One of the things that was the most surprising in this debate with regard to this proposed free trade treaty with Colombia was to hear the whip of the Conservatives, index finger wagging under our noses, telling us that we did not understand democracy because democracy was giving the government what it wanted. He said that we were not making Parliament work because we were not giving the government the free trade deal that it wanted with a government that does not respect human rights in Colombia. I have news for him. We are respecting every single rule of our Parliament and the institution that it represents in our democracy.
What we are saying is that it is wrong to sign a free trade deal with a government that does not respect human rights. We are going to use our ability as a major player in Parliament to do something that the Liberals do not do, which is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for democracy, and to stand up for principle.
I have a series of letters from groups around the country complaining that the Liberals are not doing what they claim to do, which is to stand up for human rights. It is a good thing that the NDP and other members of the House have stood and used their voices to say yes to greater relations with all countries, yes to using our parliamentary institutions, our experience and our human rights record to help people build capacity to respect human rights, and no to a free trade deal that sends the wrong signal.
It sends the signal that there are no problems in Colombia, that the murder of hundreds of trade unionists is something we would accept, whereas it is completely unacceptable based on all international principles and understanding of human rights, and democratic values around the world.
Shame on the Conservatives, those great givers of lessons before the eternal, those great finger waggers with regard to everyone else's behaviour. Shame on them for proposing a free trade deal rather than requiring that an effort be made in Colombia to bring up its standards of human rights, its respect for people, and its respect for social rights. That is a major difference between Colombia and us.
Shame on the pathetic Liberals, as usual talking out of both sides of their mouths at the same time, daring to say that they want to have Canada once again become a voice in the world. They are pathetic. All the correspondence in this file shows that the groups that once supported the Liberal Party now realize that there is only one strong principled voice for human rights in the House and that is the New Democratic Party of Canada.